Monday, February 04, 2008

Mamanxiety, Part One

Sometimes all I wish for is a day or two, even an hour, of knowing I'm making the right choices for my kids. My mamanxiety is pretty high these days and I keep having that nagging feeling that I'm messing up my kids for life. When you homeschool your kids, there's no one else to blame, right?

MonkeyBoy is a pretty intense and challenging kid. This is hard to accept for those who see him under ideal circumstances because most people only see his charm, his quick wit, his thoughtfulness, and his brilliant smile. All of these are completely genuine, but when it's time to buckle down and work, most of these attributes disappear and he becomes easily frustrated, ill-tempered, and not my favorite companion.

I think at some level I understand his frustration. Academic work doesn't come easily to him. He's an incredibly talented artist but words and numbers won't behave for him and even at 12 it's torture for him to sit still for long. For years I've tried to adopt the relatively easygoing attitude that so many homeschooling parents seem to have mastered: there's no rush, he'll get it when he's ready and so on. And then I realize that he's more than a little bit behind--he's still struggling with concepts that much younger kids have mastered. But it isn't just that I realize it, he's more and more aware of it himself. Our semester in the awful virtual charter school had him convinced that he was just plain stupid compared to other kids his age. That realization was what prompted me to pull him out and give the kid a break. A really long break.

I don't believe this kid would thrive in public school especially in our small district which lacks all the groovy special interest programs found in the large neighboring school district. I think he'd be so overstimulated in the average classroom that he wouldn't learn much at all. I felt this when he was 5 and my opinion really hasn't changed much. But you'd think that after all these years I'd be a confident homeschooling pro and I am as full of worry as ever.

sounds so wonderful and I wish I could be that kind of homeschooling parent, but I'm not. I love the idea of child-led learning and I have met a few self-identified unschooled kids that seem to have blossomed with such an approach (and I've met a few that scare the pants off me, to be fair). But left to their own devices my boys would do nothing but play computer games, read crappy fantasy books and squabble with each other and I just can't feel OK with that.

On the other hand we are way too disorganized and spontaneous for a rigorous scheduled curriculum. Because MonkeyBoy takes hours to do a few minutes' work, the idea of 8-10 hours a day at the kitchen table (because he still can't get much done without my constant supervision) to cover the state standards fills me with no end of horror. That was the nightmare that was the virtual charter school and I can't see doing that again.

On the other hand (how many hands do I have now?) my mercurial little sprite needs to learn some buckling down skills as well as how to write a decent one-page essay without excessive drama. So we're at it again, nose to the grindstone. Am I teaching him much needed discipline or am I crushing his spirit? I still don't know but I can't help but feel that I really ought to have this all figured out by now.

1 comment:

ElizO said...

OMG, this is a constant struggle, isn't it? It is so hard to know when to push and when to let them spend their time doing things that are important to them, but that are not necessarily helping them make much academic progress. I'm always reminding myself that I don't think I really learned anything through 8th grade except reading and a pretty good amount math (but I really enjoyed math), so I've always figured that I could get reading and basic math covered by the end of eighth grade (age-wise). But then I see my kids' cousins and schooled friends putting together these big reports and projects that my 10-year-old has never come close to, and I get a little freaked out, I admit.

On the other hand, I had a brother who was a total academic failure--spent his entire high school career smoking and selling pot and playing soccer and had to go to summer school in order to graduate from high school. School was an agonizingly bad fit--he wanted to do art and think and explore. The only way he could survive without losing his mind was to numb his brain long enough to make it through the day. School didn't help him in any way. Now he is a well-functioning adult, reading really obscure scholarly buddhist texts that I can't begin to understand. I think he's managed to become a productive adult despite going to school, not because of it.

It is just impossible not to fret and worry, though, isn't it? What mom worth her salt doesn't?